It might be too late to sign your kids up for summer camp at the beach or mountains, but you can do the next best thing: Sign them up for a kids' camp at sea.
Most cruise lines offer complimentary activities that are fun and educational, tailored to the age of the child.
Princess Cruises, for instance, is currently rolling out its new Camp Discovery, in conjunction with Discovery Communications. The program features youth centers and lounges such as the Treehouse, which serves ages 3 to 7, and the Lodge, geared to kids 8 to 12. The Beach House, for teens, includes parties, movies, competitions and dance classes.
The new beefed-up youth program is currently available on Grand Princess, Caribbean Princess, Majestic Princess and Regal Princess, with other ships in the fleet adding the activities through 2019.
Carnival Cruises also has a camp-like program called Camp Carnival. Kids are split into three different age groups: 2 to 5 years old, 6 to 8 and 9 to 11. Activities include arts and crafts, dancing, movies, toy-time and video gaming; at mealtime, kids get their own menus, with faves like mac & cheese and chicken nuggets.
Disney Cruise Line has a trio of clubs dedicated to kids, including the Oceaneer Club for the younger set and Oceaneer Lab for teens. The "It's a Small World" nursery is also available.
On Holland America, your young chef can enroll in the Culinary Arts Center for Kids and learn how to whip together various dishes.
On Norwegian Cruise Lines, kids join Splash Academy and teens become members of Entourage.
Paul Gauguin Cruises, which sails through the islands of French Polynesia, takes advantage of the area's ecosystems to introduce kids to the abundant marine life found there.
Royal Caribbean International has an Adventure Youth program that divides kids into Just for Babies and Tots, 6 to 36 months old; Just for Kids, 3 to 11; and Just for Teens, 12 to 17. The line's DreamWorks Experience, a partnership with DreamWorks Animation, enables the appearance of characters from Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar, and other DreamWorks Animation films.
Besides the organized kids' activities, mainstream cruise lines that promote family cruises have plenty of other activities for kids of all ages, including wave pools, dance classes, video games and arcades, Ping-Pong, basketball or other sports courts, and mini-golf. Many also have waterslides and water play areas, and a few have ropes courses and climbing walls.